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Key West Time
July 12th
9:05am · 87°F

Snorkeling in Key West: Where to Go

As home to the only living coral reef system in the continental US, the waters surrounding the Florida Keys are a top destination for snorkelers. From colorful corals and tropical fish to dolphins and sea turtles, this incredible underwater world is home to over 6,000 species of marine life.

With equally beautiful views and things to do above the water - staying in Key West offers the best of both worlds.

Here's your ultimate guide to planning a Key West snorkeling adventure!


Why is Key West the Snorkeling Capital of the Keys?

Key West is home to the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world

Key West is the crown jewel of the Florida Keys; it has great beaches, tropical vacation villas, lots of history, great restaurants and nightlife, and is home to the third largest barrier reef in the world.

Of course, it's also known for its watersports, one of the biggest being reef snorkeling. Key West is a top snorkeling spot in the US, offering some of the most beautiful underwater views you can find without a long plane ride or a passport.

The waters surrounding Key West are part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which is home to a vast, protected living coral reef system - the only one of its kind in North America. This reef system is home to an incredible amount of marine life, and there are many different ways you can get in the water with them.


Snorkeling Tours in Key West

Diving in with Sunset Sail Key West

Fury Water Adventures

Voted the best watersports company in Key West for ten years running, Fury Water Adventures offers expert-led snorkeling trips on their spacious, 65-ft catamaran with lots of amenities. Passengers will enjoy comfy, shaded seating areas, freshwater rinsing areas, and on-board restrooms. Fury provides all snorkel gear, reef-safe sunscreen, and complimentary beverages - including post-snorkel alcoholic beverages.

Fury offers a variety of tours, including snorkeling, sunset cruises, and dolphin-watching tours, and their popular "Reef & Ritas" package, which includes an afternoon of snorkeling, followed by margaritas on board. All tours are led by expert guides who will get you geared up and provide snorkel and safety instructions.

Reef destinations vary based on the weather and water conditions of the day but might include Sand Key, Rock Key, Eastern Dry Rocks, or Western Sambo. Some trips visit more than one reef, offering even more opportunities to spot tropical fish, sting rays, sea turtles, crustaceans, and more.


Sunset Water Sports Key West

  • Snorkel tours: Depart from the Key West Historic Seaport, 201 Williams Street, Key West;

  • Boat Rentals: Depart from Cow Key Marina, 5001 5th Ave, Key West

  • Website:

  • Phone: 305-296-2554

Whether you're looking for a guided snorkel tour or want to rent a boat and captain your own - Sunset Water Sports has you covered. You can choose from a variety of snorkel tours, including the popular "Rise & Reef" tour, which includes a morning snorkel, breakfast, and mimosas.

Or, charter your own boat and rent some snorkel gear for a choose-your-own-adventure style day! Want the best of both worlds? Private charters with captains are also available.

Sunset Water Sports snorkel tours depart on a 65-ft catamaran with three decks, plenty of seating, a bar, and on-board restrooms. All snorkel equipment is included and expert guides are on-board to assist with gear and instructions. Reef locations will depend on weather and water conditions but might include Sand Key, Eastern Dry Rocks, or Western Dry Rocks.


SNUBA Key West

  • Location: SNUBA tours depart from the Garrison Bight Marina, 711 Eisenhower Drive, Key West

  • Website:

  • Phone: 305-292-4616

If you want to get a closer look at the majestic reefs of the Keys but are not quite ready for SCUBA diving, check out SNUBA Key West. SNUBA stands for Surface Nexus Underwater Breathing Apparatus; it's the closest you can get to SCUBA diving without special training and certification.

SNUBA lets you explore deeper (up to 20 feet) without needing air tanks, you remain attached to an air hose that is manned at the surface. No experience or certifications are necessary, the crew will provide all necessary instructions and gear. SNUBA Key West tours depart on a comfy 47-foot catamaran with a freshwater shower and restroom on board.

Since SNUBA is a bit different from other Key West snorkeling trips, you have access to a different variety of dive sites. These can include Archer Key, Casa Rocks Reef, the Sigsbee Ledge, and sometimes, even a shipwreck site. Your captain will pick the best spots for the day based on water conditions, and the crew will advise you on what you're most likely to see at your destination. SNUBA Key West is a one-of-a-kind, must-try experience!


Walk In Snorkel Spots in Key West

Lauren (a born and raised Key West Conch and family to VHKW) enjoys her reef snorkel shift on Fury.

Higgs Beach

Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park, better known simply as Higgs Beach, is a prime spot for snorkeling in Key West sans boat. You can snorkel right from the shore at Higgs Beach, which provides ample opportunities to spot ocean life. In just a few feet of water, conch can be spotted in the seagrass beds, and schools of angel fish swim among the breakwater.

Higgs Beach is a great spot for beginners who want to dip their toes into snorkeling without booking a tour. You can rent or buy a snorkel mask from nearby vendors and start your adventure in as little as six feet of water.


Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Fort Taylor may be best known for its incredible history and a large collection of canons, but it's also home to a secret snorkeling spot that's one of the best in Key West! At the southern end of the park, you'll find a beach that is perfect for beginner snorkelers. The rocky outcroppings in the water are teeming with marine life, including colorful parrotfish, sea sponges, and crustaceans.

You can rent snorkeling gear right on the beach from Fort Taylor, as well as beach chairs and umbrellas. The beach at Fort Taylor is quite rocky so water shoes are recommended (or rent flippers with your snorkel mask).


Key West Snorkeling FAQ

You won't regret a day spent snorkeling on your vacation

When is the best time to snorkel in Key West? 

Anytime is a good time to snorkel in Key West! With sunshine and warm water year-round, Key West is an all-season destination. With that being said, there are always a few exceptions to keep in mind.

While you can certainly go snorkeling in the winter, summer really is the best time for water sports. Summers in Key West mean no wind and the highest underwater visibility.


What can I see when snorkeling in Key West?

With over 6,000 species of marine life that call the waters surrounding the Keys home, there's a lot you might be able to see while snorkeling. Some of the most common sea life you'll spot around the reefs include a variety of tropical fish, sting rays, eels, sea turtles, crabs, lobsters, sea sponges, anemones, starfish, and the occasional dolphin or shark.


Is the snorkeling kid friendly in Key West?

Most Key West snorkeling spots are kid-friendly, including boat tours, but it's always a good idea to inquire with the individual tour company before you book. Some tours have minimum ages for safety, and all tours that accommodate kids have children-sized life jackets or personal flotation devices that must be worn.

Beach snorkeling is also a great way to introduce kids to snorkeling in a calm, shallow environment - with proper safety equipment, of course!


What do I need to bring to go snorkeling in Key West?

Most snorkel tours provide everything you need for the water, including flotation devices, snorkel masks, and flippers. Some even provide reef-safe sunscreen, but it's never a bad idea to bring some just in case. If you're sensitive to the sun, a long-sleeved rashguard on top of your bathing suit might be helpful.

You'll want to bring your ID for check-in, some cash or credit cards for payments or gratuities, and towels after snorkeling. Most tours provide water and other beverages but bring a few snacks if you think you'll get hungry. Most tours are at least three hours long.

If you plan on taking photos or videos underwater, be sure you have a waterproof camera or phone case and a floating strap. You don't want to lose your smartphone or action cam in the reef. Lastly, bringing a dry bag to hold all your belongings is never a bad idea on a boat.

If you're going snorkeling from the beach, you'll need at least a snorkel mask, which is typically easy to rent or buy nearby. Flippers or water shoes might be needed, especially on rocky beaches. You'll also want to bring your regular beach essentials like sunscreen, towels, water, etc.


Is there any other way to see the reef without getting in the water?

If you want to catch a glimpse of the incredible underworld world of the Keys without getting wet, you have options. Glass-bottom boat tours are just as widely available as snorkel tours and offer an alternative way to see the reef. They are also great for young children, elderly visitors, or anyone with mobility issues who might not be able to snorkel.


Explore the Underwater World of Key West

Make On Hemingway's Rounds your home base in Key West

Whether you want to snorkel from the shore or explore the reefs by boat, there's no place quite like Key West for a snorkeling adventure. And, when you've had your fill of the underwater world for the day, there's plenty to see and do on dry land, too.

Book your stay with Vacation Homes of Key West and enjoy the ultimate relaxation and amenities while being close to all the great snorkeling spots. From cozy condos and breezy beach cottages to sprawling vacation homes with private pools and unbeatable ocean views - there's a perfect place to stay for everyone in beautiful Key West.

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